When 21-year-old Jamie Higa got her fourth and most recent concussion in late 2011, her coach told her to man up.

Higa, then a guard on Chaminade University’s women’s basketball team, was dribbling across the court in a practice set when a spiteful teammate came from behind and “clobbered” her on purpose. Civil Beat confirmed the incident with other teammates.

The jolt caught Higa off-guard. She fell to the court, the front of her head hitting the floor and then snapping backwards — just like whiplash.

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She hasn’t felt normal since.

State data show that hundreds — many suspect thousands — of student athletes suffer concussions each year. Concussions are traumatic brain injuries caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that can change the way the brain normally works. They can cause confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea and, sometimes, unconsciousness.

Many medical experts and athletics officials in part attribute the high concussion rate to the ever-increasing competitiveness in school sports. And they say that pressure is widespread in Hawaii, which is sometimes dubbed a “football hotbed” for national recruiters.

Coaches like Higa’s often pressure student athletes into activities that put them at risk of serious concussions and long-drawn-out repercussions, experts say. But that competitive pressure comes from all directions, said Ross Oshiro, who coordinates the state Department of Education’s athletic trainers program and helped implement two of the department’s recently launched concussion initiatives.

But experts say it’s unlikely the rules of the game will be changed anytime soon. Some concussion-related policies are being adopted by schools and youth leagues, but sports are still mostly self-regulated.


Photo Credit: K.M. Klemencic on Flickr